Archive for June, 2010

Vice President Biden has lunch in Milwaukee…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 26, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

In the course of human events, I ended up in Milwaukee Friday for a fundraising luncheon at the Pfister where Vice President Joe Biden was stumping with Senator Russ Feingold. I came the night before because I had some business in Madison on Thursday. It gave me the opportunity to check out a concert on Cathedral Square, where they don’t seem to have all the issues with alcohol events that we’re forever turning ourselves inside out about here, but that’s a story for another day. (By the way, Milwaukee has changed a lot over the past 20 years and I happen to think it gets a bad rap, but that’s a story for another day, too.)

There were around 200 people at the Pfister’s Imperial Room, which is pretty good when you consider that the tariff for a nicely presented ham and cheese sandwich with dessert for this particular event started at $500. It WAS a fundraiser, after all — and Feingold raised more than 100 grand. Security was decent, but not overbearing. I ran into a few people I knew, but there weren’t a lot of politicians – not Mayor Barrett, Senator Kohl; no congressional representatives and only one state legislator that I noticed. There was also essentially no media, save one scribe from the Journal-Sentinel. No TV cameras or audio taping was allowed and Biden didn’t talk directly with the media during his visit at all.

Feingold gave a rousing speech and Biden gave remarks that were really very well done and highly entertaining. A good portion was about interacting with Feingold, including his fierce independence and unwavering principles in many areas. “In closing, let me just say that everything I had to say, I pretty much agree with,” Biden quipped, recognizing his role as the headliner for a campaign event. The vice president discussed the economy, including the conditions under which the Administration took office and what has happened since then. There was no talk about McChrystal or the Rolling Stone article in which Biden was mentioned that caused all the furor this week and really ended up being a big effing deal.

After lunch, Biden glad-handed with attendees informally and did some pictures with folks before heading out with Feingold to Kopp’s Frozen Custard in Glendale, where he made news by calling the manager a smartass (which he kind of was):

I walked back to the InterContinental to retrieve my car and head back to Wausau. (I couldn’t afford the place, but I still have plenty of Priorty club points and they even upgraded me to a suite, which was nice.)


And then came my Forrest Gump moment. I don’t really enjoy big city driving all that much, but as I hopped onto I-43, I noticed that the drive out of town was amazingly easy, with open lanes wall-to-wall. There was a reason for this: motorcycle cops were blocking the entrance ramps as I breezed out of the city. If I’d have shown up a minute earlier or a minute later, everything would have been different, but as luck would have it, I ended up being the first car behind Vice President Biden’s fairly significant motorcade. This essentially made me part of the motorcade, for all practical purposes — and it went on for several miles. ‘A person could get used to this,’ I thought to myself, as I popped a few pics over the steering wheel with my cell phone.


87th Assembly District race is one to watch…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

Over the telephone earlier today, I was learning the finer points of taking a chicken to market-ready status from Dana Schultz of Athens, the Democratic Party’s 87th Assembly District candidate who is challenging Rep. Mary Williams (R-Medford).  This is going to be a very interesting race because Williams has had extremely close contests in her last two outings and the Schultz campaign looks like a high-energy operation that will keep the pedal to the metal until November.  Prior to the last re-districting, Democrat Marty Reynolds was carrying the 87th with gaudy landslide victories of 65 and 70 percent of the vote. 

After graduating from Newman High School in Wausau as a standout student and athlete, Schultz went to UWM on a Division 1 basketball scholarship.  Now she’s back on the farm with a Master’s Degree in political science and she’s anxious to put her rural roots together with her graduate degree to work in the public policy arena of the state legislature. 

The sprawling 87th includes Taylor, Rusk and Price counties, with a small piece of northwestern Marathon.  With an open governor’s race, an open seat congressional race, State Sen. Russ Decker and U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold all up for election, the voters should be out in November and this looks to be one of relatively few races in Wisconsin where state Dems seem to have a very legtimate shot at a picking up a seat.

* * *

State Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer of the 25th Assembly District that includes Manitowoc has decided to run as an Independent in this fall’s race instead of as a Democrat, which he has done since 1992.  That part of the Lakeshore area is one that I’ve always described as one where you have to “talk like a Republican and run as a Democrat.”  Ziegelbauer, who is also Manitowoc County Executive, has always done that.  As the Joe Lieberman of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Ziegelbauer has regularly broken ranks with the Dems over the years; particularly on business issues.  He was stripped of his Ways and Means Committee chairmanship by Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan in the last session after a procedural vote in which he sided with the GOP on an abortion amendment to the budget which was ruled not germane. 

 There was already another Democrat running for the seat this time around so Ziegelbauer would have had a September primary if he hadn’t jumped off the donkey.  Kerry Trask, who is on the teaching staff at UW-Manitowoc, might have been able to make a more convincing case to the party faithful in a primary.  It remains to be seen what that will mean in November and whether Ziegelbauer will be handicapped by abandoning party affiliation.  Although Ziegelbauer has won plenty of elections, he was unable to win the Manitowoc Mayoral race vs. Kevin Crawford while attempting to launch his political career.  Since then, he’s become a household name with his two high-profile political roles. 

The City of Manitowoc may again hold the key to whether Ziegelbauer holds his seat in November and it’s a wild card.  The city raised eyebrows by electing 22-year-old Justin Nickels to be mayor last year, after Crawford decided to end his lengthy run in office to pursue private sector employment following 21 years at the helm.


Hot local Dem race: Clerk of Courts?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 17, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

Todd Punke (D-Stettin), a consultant for BowenEHS, and former teacher, youth sports coach and community volunteer, announced his candidacy for the 86th Assembly District Monday at Rib Mountain Elementary School.  He is challenging Rep. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), who is completing his sixth two-year term in the Wisconsin State Assembly.  Past elections have shown Petrowski to be a strong campaigner and unseating him would be a tall order.  It will be interesting to see what kind of resources this race will be able to draw. 

* * *

Here’s the job description for Marathon County Clerk of Courts:

“Responsible for the filing and case management of all Marathon County Court Cases. All garnishments, replevins, evictions, liens, state income tax liens, warrants, civil judgments, writs and mediation are handled. Collection of filing fees, fines, forfeitures, court costs, GAL fees, custody study fees. Gives oaths to deputy sheriffs, court commissioners, condemnation commissioners. Also responsible for all jury management for the county. Schedules court interpreters and support staff for all the courts.”

Does that sound like a partisan office?  Well, it is — but only from the standpoint that sheriff, district attorney, register of deeds and county clerk offices are, too.  (Thank goodness we don’t still elect the coroner and the county surveyor, right?) 


So now incumbent Democrat Diane Sennholz, who took over the office when Donna Seidel was elected to the Assembly in 2004, finds herself with a DEMOCRATIC opponent in the September primary, Mark Garvin.  It’s all going to be over in the primary unless somebody shows up on the GOP side between now and July and it is creating all sorts of interesting discussions inside county Dem circles.  Stay tuned.


Hermening drops out of 29th SD race…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

Republican Kevin Hermening dropped out of the 29th Wisconsin Senate District race today.  I found it to be an interesting development.  While partisan Republicans and Decker detractors will tend to rally behind Pam Galloway as the presumptive challenger in November, it’s difficult to tell whether that can be cobbled together for a win for her in November.  Russ Decker has a support base that carves into some traditional conservative constituencies in the rural areas, alongside some solid support from labor and partisan Democrats. 

Hermening would have been a unique personality to have in the mix and I felt that he was likely to win the GOP primary, although there are obviously some credible Galloway supporters.  He is an excellent stump speaker and he has an interesting resume.  Because I was in the Air Force at the same time that he was in the Marines and the Iran hostage crisis was such a huge deal for anyone in uniform at the time, I related to him in some ways, although we have significant political differences.

Anyway, I think it would have been a more interesting race for political junkies like me with Hermening in it, although I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to go through the exercise, either.


Pulled pork: YES, we can!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 15, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg
Barbecue is a word that means different things to different people. Go down south and what they’re generally talking about is pit barbecues, which are informal restaurants with a wood-fired cooking pit out back. Southern barbecue restaurants are sort of like going to a picnic, with outdoor-cooked food and proprietary sauces that take on the mystique of what might be compared to “who has the best fish fry” around this part of the world. Around other regions, a barbecue is the device – like a gas or charcoal grill. In our regular practice of verbing nouns, you barbecue things on a barbecue (although here, most people grill things on a grill.)

Around Wausau, barbecue often means a hamburger-based concoction that you prepare and scoop onto hamburger buns. It’s one of the top dishes at kids’ birthday parties or other events where you don’t really know how many people will be showing up and you want it reasonably cheap, easy and informal.

Anyway, here’s a little recipe that’s easy and you will also be able to separate yourself from the rookies by simply taking your time. Because if there’s one thing that makes those southern barbecue places worth stopping at instead of just whipping the stuff up at home, it’s that they’re willing to take time to do it right and time is exactly what it takes.

First, let’s talk about the pork. A lot of hardcore pulled pork people like to use a butt roast. It works great and it’s cheap, but almost all cuts of pork are pretty cheap these days so I’m fond of the loin roast, which is essentially a long hunk of unsliced, boneless pork chops. For the proportions of this recipe, you want around three pounds.

Preparing the pork:

Paint on some Worcestershire sauce and then put on a rub consisting of garlic powder, pepper and salt. Let it settle in by bringing the meat up to room temperature for maybe 90 minutes and then throw it on a pre-heated grill. We’re not going to actually cook it on the grill, but brown it up to a nice finish and give it a little outdoor flavor. Then place it into a covered roaster with about a quarter inch of water in the bottom and a couple of drops of liquid smoke. This is going to be a VERY SLOW oven; I’m talking 225 degrees. You might think it’s going to take forever to cook at that low temperature and you’re almost right. For the piece you see in the picture, I put it in the oven at 11 p.m. and took it out the next morning around 7 a.m. – eight hours. But check out the results. The meat is so tender that it would be difficult to cut because it just pulls apart with the grain when you put any pressure on it at all with a chef knife. Voila, pulled pork! I like to remove any remaining excess fat on the exterior.

The sauce is boss:

Okay, let’s say you’ve decided at this point that you’ve had it with screwing around. It’s perfectly okay if you want to take a big bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce, stir it in with the pork in a big, covered pot on the range top or your crock pot and simmer it up and serve it. But what’s even better is to have a made-from-nearly-scratch sauce that proves to the world you’re truly the best of the best – not just because you understand food, but because almost nobody in this instant gratification, heat & serve world is willing to put in the time to do things right anymore. So here’s your sauce:

2 cups tomato juice

2 cans concentrated tomato soup (the small ones, 10.5-oz.)

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon chili powder

1-1/2 teaspoons Allspice

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon celery salt

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup white vinegar

¼ cup chopped onions

¼ stalk celery, chopped VERY finely

You can play around with some of the ingredients for taste, but don’t overdo the ground cloves, Allspice or salt because these are the kinds of things that can quickly take dominance.

Start by blending the juice, soup and vinegar together with the onions and celery and then carefully stir in the other ingredients as you bring it up to temperature over a medium flame. Once you see the bubbles of a boil, back it off to a very low simmer, mix in the pork, cover it and let it simmer for an hour to 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. VERY LOW HEAT, okay? Things like brown sugar are really touchy about overheating. If you like the consistency after this process, then that’s great. If not, uncover it and keep stirring it regularly until it’s a bit thicker.

Skip those chintzy, spongy, mass-produced hamburger buns and put your barbecued pulled pork on some nice artisan bakery hard rolls because it deserves the respect.

(And if you’ve got a kid’s birthday party coming up, just skip the pork, brown 2.5 pounds of hamburger with the quarter cup of onion, drain it and stir it into a batch of this sauce to serve over chintzy, spongy, mass-produced hamburger buns because it’s awesome.)

Bon appetit!




Politics Wednesday and some old stuff…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 9, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

So, I missed a big Barrett fundraiser Monday, which featured a lot of luminaries from Dave Obey on down. I should have gone and I had simply failed to put it into the calendar. On the bright side, I got a full report on it from the person who escaped with a heavy load of leftover craft beer from Red Eye Brewing Company after I agreed to help try to drink it down a bit. Happily, it wasn’t one of their most potent offerings, which can produce hallucinations beginning as quickly as after the second round or so.

Some observations:

Julie Lassa’s campaign for the 7th U.S. Congressional seat held by Dave Obey had a poorly orchestrated rollout and very little has been seen of it since. One party insider suggested to me that perhaps Lassa has been off to some kind of candidate preparatory program with the Dems congressional campaign committee. Maybe – but she’s not the only one who might benefit from some training in proper positioning. I like Julie Lassa, but I’m still waiting see something that tells me this candidacy is going to have some real legs. Failing to do a media market tour with the announcement wasn’t just non-traditional, but a mistake. Maintaining a pretty much content-free website weeks into the game tells me that there are a whole lot of people who have a whole lot to pull together in very little time if her candidacy is going to be credible.

After Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate chided Republican Sean Duffy for securing an out-of-state campaign manager in a press release, it now looks like Lassa’s campaign may do the same. I don’t have a problem with that at all – but you can’t put an opponent down with something you’re doing yourself and maintain a modicum of intellectual honesty. Here’s the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s press release and I give them points for jumping all over the poorly thrown hanging curveball from Tate for a base hit — even though it took a couple of months for the pitch to make it from the mound to the strike zone: 
  Happily, it’s a very long game and this little gaffe will be essentially meaningless to the outcome. The problem right now is, well, what ELSE is there to talk about with this campaign? Julie – or somebody; ANYBODY — come to the barbecue contest Sunday afternoon and talk me down from this.

I HAD to ask Kevin Hermening if he was kicking himself about announcing to run against Sen. Russ Decker in the 29th State Senate district, only to later find out that Dave Obey is retiring and leaving an open seat race for the 7th U.S. Congressional district. He says no. With too many pans in the fire between the family and the business, the state senate race is all he wants to take on and frankly, he’s not overly-confident of even getting past the primary to have a shot at Decker. I think he should be able to do that, but anything can happen in low turnout primaries. Ron Johnson already appears to own the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate race against Russ Feingold so a fellow like Hermening really needs Neumann to stay in the race on the guv side right up until the September primary to get the elephants out to the polls.

Speaking of state races, Chuck Eno announced his GOP candidacy to run against State Rep. Donna Seidel in the 85th. The announcement release was pretty decent, citing a lot of Chamber of Commerce and MCDEVCO work. The problem is that I’ve been hanging around the Chamber since 1981 and I don’t know this guy. Neither do a lot of other people who have been involved for a long time, so I think we’re reaching back to the 1970s, at least. It would be sort of like me running on my military record or something. Eno had a letter to the editor a few weeks ago which would probably appeal to the religious right, but at this point when I hear the name Eno, I’m still waiting to hear “Toivo”. (This comes from a long tradition of jokes in the Upper Peninsula about a mythical pair of Finnish guys – sort of the like Ole & Lena Norwegian jokes in Minnesota.) When you Google him up, you don’t find much beyond the announcement so a lot of his activity must have been taking place before Al Gore invented the Internet.

Speaking of Al, he and Tipper are apparently splitting up after 40 years. This, of course, brought back memories of “The Kiss” at the 2000 Democratic National Convention a decade ago and it was replayed countless times last week. What’s interesting about it is that Al Gore is known mostly for being a guy with all of the podium presence of a cigar store Indian. This is not completely fair.  (I want to stand up with cigar store Indians all across this country.)

In the 1988 presidential campaign on a nasty spring day that felt more like late winter, a couple of us stood behind the platform in the parking lot over by Burger King on Jefferson Street with a pocket full of campaign buttons. (Bored pols do weird things to entertain themselves.) Four Democratic presidential candidates rolled up in succession; Michael Dukakis, Dick Gephardt, Paul Simon and Al Gore. They would emerge from their limousines and we would shake their hands, wearing their buttons as they went up to the stage. Then we’d quickly change buttons as the next candidate pulled up to repeat the process. (I was focused on the U.S. Senate campaign of Tony Earl, which Herb Kohl eventually won to begin his career on The Hill.)

Anyway, Al was as good as any of them. Of course, none of them were good enough to win in November. Reagan’s veep, George H. “Read My Lips” Bush, eventually won his single term in the White House. (Michael Dukakis actually lost to Willie Horton, a guy serving a life sentence in a Massachusetts prison who was let out on a weekend furlough and committed a rape. There was also that ridiculous video of Mike driving a tank…) But I digress. No John Edwards story or anything like that for Al, just yet – but you can bet the National Enquirer is on it.